The political network of imprisoned Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny has been disbanded ahead of a potential court ruling that could declare his nationwide organization ‘extremist’ and completely prohibit its existence.
Writing on Telegram, Navalny’s aide Leonid Volkov, who is based outside Russia but serves as the coordinator of the activist’s regional branches in the country, explained that the network must be disbanded to protect its workers. He added that many of them could face criminal charges if the activist group is branded as extremist.
“It is impossible to work under these conditions. We’re officially dissolving Navalny’s network of headquarters,” Volkov wrote, also noting that they would not attempt to rebrand. He added that the local branches themselves will no longer exist, but their regional members will continue as before, but as independents.
The announcement comes two weeks after the Moscow prosecutor’s office demanded that Navalny’s network be recognized as extremist, alongside two other organizations affiliated with the activist – the Anti-Corruption Foundation and the Citizens’ Rights Protection Foundation. Both of these groups are already recognized by the Ministry of Justice as foreign agents.
Other groups on the extremism list include Islamist organizations Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and the Ukrainian nationalist movement Right Sector.
“Under the guise of liberal slogans, these organizations are engaged in creating conditions for destabilizing the social and socio-political situation,” the prosecutor’s office statement said.
Earlier this week, the Moscow City Court formally suspended the activities of the two foundations, while the capital’s prosecutor’s office ordered Navalny’s headquarters to stop operations, effectively forbidding it from organizing events or posting any new content online.
Navalny is currently in jail serving a two-year and eight-month jail term for breaking the conditions of a suspended sentence handed to him in 2014, when he was found guilty of embezzling 30 million rubles ($400,000) from two companies, including the French cosmetics brand Yves Rocher.
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